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What Does the 21st Century Cures Act Mean for Patients?

What Does the 21st Century Cures Act Mean for Patients?

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The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in 2016, but many practices still have questions about what it means for physicians and their patients. The Cures Act put patients at the center of efforts to modernize drug and device development and Health IT. This includes provisions to speed up prescription drug and medical device approval to get treatments to patients faster, give patients more control over their electronic health information, and help patients compare costs and quality across providers.  

Here is what the Cures Act means for your patients.

The Cures Act Speeds Up Drug and Device Development to Get Treatments to Patients Faster

The Cures Act included more than $4.5 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These funds support programs like the All of Us Research Program, which seeks to understand how each patient’s unique biology, environment, and lifestyle affects their health. The Cures Act also funded NIH studies designed to speed up the development of treatments for cancer and neurological disorders.

Besides NIH funding, the Cures Act included provisions to modernize the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) prescription drug and medical device review and approval processes. These changes accelerate the approval process and ensure the FDA incorporates patient perspectives into their decision-making.

The research and FDA modernization portions of the Cures Act, taken together, are expected to get effective treatments into the hands of providers and patients faster. These provisions, while important, will likely have little effect on your day-to-day interactions with patients.

The Cures Act Gives Patients More Control over Their Data

The Cures Act also included changes to health information technology (HIT) rules. These changes seek to promote interoperability and improve patient’s access to their electronic health information. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a final rule implementing these provisions on March 9, 2020.

The Cures Act and ONC’s rules give patients better access to their health data through modern, secure technology. The ONC rules ensure patients can securely access all of their electronic health information through the applications of their choice, including smartphone applications — and the rules require practices to provide this access for free.

The Information Blocking Rule also prevents providers from blocking access to health data. This rule enacts penalties for practices that interfere with the use, access, and exchange of electronic health information. The Information Blocking Rule paves the way for patients to get access to their data through a variety of application programming interfaces (APIs). These APIs gather data from your EHR and EPM system and transfer it securely to your patients’ selected applications. Besides allowing APIs, practices must also provide patients with a full copy of their electronic health record (EHR/EMR) upon request and allow patients to view lab and test results through patient portals.

These changes ensure patients can access their data from anywhere at no cost, helping to engage them in their own care. Patients can also transfer their data to other providers, improving continuity and coordination of care.

The Cures Act Improves Transparency in Cost and Quality Data to Help Patients Shop for Care

Patients can choose their providers, but they have little access to data on costs and quality to help them make informed choices. The Cures Act opens up the market for healthcare comparison shopping applications by giving patients full access to their electronic health information through APIs. The interoperability and information blocking provisions of the Cures Act and ONC’s implementing regulations will allow application developers to generate cost and quality comparisons for patients. For example, applications could calculate out-of-pocket costs for different providers or show quality measures to patients when they are looking for a doctor or specialist.

Applications could also combine data from other price transparency and quality initiatives to provide patients with a more complete picture of their providers and their care. By giving patients the freedom to access their data through third-party applications, the Cures Act allows patients to have more control over their care. This can benefit your practice by keeping patients more engaged. Studies have shown that engaged patients have better health outcomes and are more satisfied with their care and their providers.

How TempDev Can Help Your Practice Comply with the Cures Act

TempDev’s team of NextGen developers and consultants can help your practice comply with the Cures Act’s interoperability and information blocking rules. TempDev can also help you implement the NextGen Patient Portal, API, and other tools to help your patients easily access their electronic health information. If your practice needs help to get the most out of your NextGen system, Team TempDev has the expertise and tools you need.

Schedule a consultation with TempDev at 888.TEMP.DEV or contact us here to get help to comply with the 21st Century Cures Act.


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